National Pecan Day: Pralines Recipe
April 14 is National Pecan Day — we love pecans at The Lakeside Collection and we have a few favorite recipes for these magical nuts. If it were November, we’d be making pecan pie or tartlets, but since it’s spring, we thought a recipe we can whip up quickly would be in order so we can head outside and enjoy the weather we’ve been waiting for. With that in mind, we thought we’d share our American pralines recipe — it’s quick and it originated in New Orleans, so it’s not something that will heat up the kitchen when it’s hot outside!
If you only know pralines (pronounced praw-leans) through the ice cream flavor pralines and cream, you haven’t experienced real pralines. They’re sort of like a very rich cookie (some people describe as fudge-like, but it’s a little more delicate than fudge). Technically, it’s candy, but it’s more of an adult candy than a lollipop or licorice. The original recipe was made with almonds, but because of the abundance of pecans in Louisiana, they were the obvious substitute for almonds. And it was a perfect substitute — the pecan praline has been an iconic confection in the Big Easy for hundreds of years. Pralines are surprisingly delicious and, just like fudge, they make a nice gift or party favor — which is why you can buy them on just about any corner in the French Quarter. But you can’t get to New Orleans every day, so here’s our recipe for pralines.
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoons milk
- 1/2 cup pecan halves
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Set aside.
Heat a large skillet on medium heat until it’s hot to the touch. Add pecans in one layer on the bottom of the pan. Stir frequently (or toss, if you’re good at that) until the pecans are hot and fragrant — about 2 minutes. Set aside. Over medium-high heat, add the brown sugar, butter, cream, and milk to a sauce pan.
Stir the mixture frequently as the mixture bubbles up. Keep this up until your candy thermometer reads 238℉ — this is the softball stage of heating sugar. Add the pecans and stir vigorously for 30 seconds before turning off the heat. Continue stirring and add the vanilla extract. Continue stirring for four minutes until the mixture just starts getting a little stiff — this part is crucial. It should still be a thick liquid when you spoon the pralines onto your cookie sheet. Set aside to cool.
The result should be a lump of delicious nuts and sugar with a consistency of a very delicate cookie. The timing is difficult to get right and if you don’t, there is nothing you can do to correct it. You may end up with a crumbly mess or caramel clusters — either way, you can use your mistakes to top vanilla ice cream (delicious!). But this recipe is a small batch — it makes about five pralines, so if you don’t get it right the first time, you won’t have mounds and mounds of caramel to repurpose.